03.02.24 - MARC, MLA and MUD students take on decommissioned airfields in Integrated Urbanism Studio projects

Integrated Urbanism Studio (ARC2013Y, LAN2013Y, URD1011Y) brings together architecture, landscape architecture and urban design students to work on the same assignments throughout the semester. 

The focus area for the Fall 2023 studio, coordinated by Mauricio Quirós Pacheco, Rob Wright and Roberto Damiani, was the decommissioned airfield lands at Downsview in Toronto—currently one of the most significant urban transformation opportunities in North America.     

From proposals that address ecological connectivity and food scarcity to residential typologies and aforestation techniques, following are a selection of group projects from the MARC, MLA and MUD programs. 

The Spot 

Students: Mo Bayati, Valerie Hope Haddad, Julia Dronsejko 
Program: Master of Architecture 
Instructor: Mauricio Quirós Pacheco 

“Our Downsview proposal represents a comprehensive approach to urbanism grounded in an understanding of the site’s historical evolution, current conditions and the needs of both the local community and Toronto at large. The project synthesizes four critical issues facing the city. Firstly, it addresses the imperative of retaining and expanding industrial space, acknowledging the escalating demand in Toronto.

The introduction of a central node for entertainment and events aims to create a vibrant and engaging atmosphere, enriching the cultural fabric of the area. To confront Toronto’s healthcare challenges, our proposal strategically proposes a new hospital at Downsview. Additionally, the initiative tackles food scarcity by implementing urban agriculture, utilizing advanced techniques such as hydroponics. The design encompasses industrial zones, event space, health and wellness districts, and agricultural areas.” 

Process Based Landscapes 

Students: Rebecca Martin, Zhuanghyi Peng, María Alonso Novo 
Program: Master of Landscape Architecture 
Instructors: Rob Wright, Megan Esopenko 

“Process Based Landscapes questions what public open spaces could look like if they were positioned as key nodes of social, economic and civic life. These close-up plans translate large-scale concepts into site-specific strategies through an agricultural field, an ecological corridor and a residential neighbourhood. Within each context, design strategies were aimed to create engaging landscapes that invite residents into the processes taking place on the site.” 

Social Urbanism 

Students: Shivangi Chauhan, Rajvi Modi
Program: Master of Urban Design 
Instructor: Roberto Damiani 

“Social Urbanism: A paradigm of public space justice is an urban design project situated within the environs of Downsview neighbourhood in the city of Toronto. The conceptual framework embodies a holistic ethos in urban development, prioritizing the welfare of communities through nuanced responsiveness and enhancement of the site, local context and public realm. The term ‘Social’ within this context manifests a dual significance in the realm of urban development. On one facet, it connotes notions of communal cohesion and active engagement, while on the other it conveys an engagement with fundamental societal requisites like, housing, immigration and awareness centres, etc.” 

Change of Plan: STADIA City 

Students: Nezar Alkujok, Negar Mashoof, Yegor Konechnyy
Program: Master of Architecture 
Instructor: Aziza Chaouni

“In the evolving landscape of Downsview, Change of Plan: STADIA City, inspired by the Smithsons’ 1957 Hauptstadt entry, involves a habitable bridge complex. Drawing from 1960s megastructures, the proposal unites major sectors—YorkU Village, Sheppard Avenue West, Northwood Park, Yorkdale Mall and Sobeys Stadium—via interconnected elements, including a main stadium and multi-use stadia, strategically positioned as nodes within the sky bridge. This approach reimagines the site, transforming local and national events into an ever-growing, evolutive series of spaces, both at and above ground.”

Events, Ecology, Ephemera 

Students: Matt Arnott, Anh Luu, Seth Ramesra 
Program: Master of Landscape Architecture 
Instructors: Rob Wright, Megan Esopenko 

“Through the process of exploring the site’s history, what stood out to us was the longstanding pattern of strange events and massive crowds. The site’s history of sporadic occupation has been absorbed into its identity, creating a program defined by flux. Simultaneously, ecological presence and diversity have dwindled over time as people have come to occupy the site, rendering natural cycles invisible in favour of roads and runways. This project seeks to bring inhabitants of the site closer to the natural happenings that often go overlooked, foregrounding an urbanism rooted in ecological events.” 

The Urban Rooms 

Students: Anurag Panda, Pallavi Patil, Sakshi Thorat, Wenqian Han 
Program: Master of Urban Design 
Instructor: Roberto Damiani 

“The proposed development plan aims to turn Downsview into a growth centre with public corridors and mixed-use development. The current land-use segregation only focuses on residential or employment, lacking an equitable distribution of mixed-use development. The plan includes the concept of ‘urban rooms,’ grouping houses around open spaces to create a square. The green spaces will be better connected via a green spine and a series of intimate ‘outdoor’ rooms. Mixed-use corridors of higher densities are allocated along the exterior edge, and more intimate institutional areas are kept near Downsview Park. A central amenity transforms into a sport-focused room in the proposed layout.” 

Patchwork City: Reimagining Downsview as Urban Tapestry 

Students: Lily Lu, Owen Miu, Yunjung Park, Ghazal Elmizadeh
Program: Master of Architecture  
Instructor: David Verbeek

“Patchwork City is an urban strategy that challenges conventional urban planning in Toronto. It presents an alternate approach by introducing a dynamic interplay of urban composition on the Downsview Airport site, through extracting and overlapping different urban fabrics. From bungalows to skyscrapers, these fabrics span across countries, cities and centuries, both generic and specific, built and unbuilt. Rather than playing a numbers game, Patchwork City focuses on the creation of distinct morphologies and new urban experiences that celebrate the vibrancy of Downsview and Toronto.” 

Leading with Landscape  

Students: Evlyn Sun, Georgia Sa, Tracy Ngan  
Program: Master of Landscape Architecture 
Instructors: Rob Wright, Megan Esopenko

“As the benefits of greenspaces are now increasingly evident, this project investigates what it means to design a new Downsview community by putting landscape first. The proposed plan prioritizes ecological connectivity by concentrating density around transit stations and providing pedestrian-oriented circulation throughout an extensive network of greenspaces. Rather than continuing a history of urban development fragmenting the landscape, this plan recognizes that resilient landscapes are integral to support community and urban infrastructure.” 

Aboretropolis: Re-Centering the Forest 

Students: Khadija Waheed, Richard Schutte, Lhanzi Gyaltsan 
Program: Master of Architecture 
Instructor: Christos Marcopolus 

“Before Downsview Airport—and before Toronto’s urban monoculture was constructed—there was a native maple-beech forest that thrived for thousands of years. This project proposes a hybrid Miyawake-poplar afforestation technique to partially return Downsview to its pre-settlement forest state. Responding to Toronto’s desperate needs of both housing and natural forest area, a new urban form is envisioned merging a diverse ecosystem of building typologies with non-invasive branching road networks that allow the forest to grow into urban spaces. Transit-rich building clusters maximize walkability and provide access to the amenities of the 15-minute city, compressed into a five-minute urban forest.” 

Dirty Downsview 

Students: Nicole Hekl, Linjuan Dai, Bracha Stettin 
Program: Master of Landscape Architecture 
Instructors: Rob Wright, Megan Esopenko 

“This project aims to create an urban development where the toxic legacy of Downsview’s industrial past serves as a starting point for imagining a sustainable and regenerative site for urban living and industry. The contamination of a post-industrial airfield became the impetus for creating a site-wide plan for soil remediation, green industry development and thriving urban conditions. Through careful phasing, thoughtful layering and connecting to existing ecological conditions, our plan creates waste treatment centres, housing and jobs for 60,000 people. Remediate the past, anticipate the future.” 

Reimaging the Green Spine 

Students: Yanyu Feng, Nan Liang; Diane (Doehyun) Kim, KIM, Sylph (Peizi) Yu
Program: Master of Urban Design 
Instructor: Roberto Damiani 

“The green spine is proposed to one side of the site and a secondary, pedestrian-only network within the built-form area. This allows for green connectivity through and outside of the site and [for] superblocks that are pedestrian-oriented and create flexible building opportunities for developers. The organic block pattern has allowed us to explore high-density buildings, while maintaining the green and picturesque appeal of suburban neighbourhoods.” 

Reconnecting Downsview: an argument for patchwork urbanism  

Students: Avondale Nixon, Declan Roberts, Nikki Basford 
Program: Master of Architecture 
Instructor: Jon Cummings 

“Reconnecting Downsview aims to integrate the neighbourhood into Toronto’s urban fabric by weaving together the once severed gridded street network. A matrix of street types was devised, placing users and circulation type on one axis, and street sizes and characteristics on the other. The resultant eight street types were distributed across the site, creating a highly connective and fine-grained urbanism. At the block scale, this interest in the human-scale spaces manifests in atypically small parcel size that encourages micro-development and a rich patchwork urbanism.” 

Auntie Urbanism 

Students: Daniel Lam, Michelle Choi, Jared Leslie 
Program: Master of Architecture 
Instructor: Karen Kubey 

“Auntie Urbanism proposes a vibrant, just future for Downsview Park in Toronto. Inspired by Vietnamese Aunties, and supporting local immigrant families, the framework centers the often-overlooked roles that women and diverse cultures play in Toronto communities. The proposal promotes economic, social, and relational exchanges that build on an existing informal network of Aunties who cook and sell international cuisines. The design explores how the site can be activated during the day and night, featuring lanterns and a night market, to stimulate the Auntie side hustle economy. By implementing variations on the Vietnamese “tube home” – a tall, narrow, intergenerational rowhouse typology with a retail ground floor – the design bridges the gap between work and personal life. We seek to cultivate not only placemaking, but place keeping.” 

Geographies of Production

Students: Gladys Lee, Aastha Saihgal, Cameron Hendey, Rubin de Jonge
Program: Master of Architecture
Instructor: Mariana Leguía Alegría

“Our proposal looks at reestablishing connections of people, agriculture, and nature within a new model of self-sustained and community living, in conjunction with revisiting accessibility and affordability on site through a lens of equity. By introducing “hub” neighborhoods that address different modes of living, our proposal presents various geographies of production at different scales, encouraging spaces to co-live, co-work, and co-exist with the site and the broader context of Toronto.”